Teach the controversy!June 16, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
Via Pharyngula, the following quote from Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal:
One, I don’t think this is something the federal or state government should be imposing its views on local school districts. You know, as a conservative I think government that’s closest to the people governs best. I think local school boards should be in a position of deciding the curricula and also deciding what students should be learning. Secondly, I don’t think students learn by us withholding information from them. Some want only to teach intelligent design, some only want to teach evolution. I think both views are wrong, as a parent.
Um, right. Schools shouldn’t be restricted to giving kids only the truth. Local school boards ought to be free to inject popular regional opinions into the curriculum, as if they were just as valid as the facts. In fact, schools should make sure that by the time a high school senior graduates, he or she is no longer able to even tell the difference between scientific fact and popular opinion.
Folks, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Teaching kids the truth, and ONLY the truth, is a GOOD thing. And that is why it is imperative that we MUST “teach the controversy” regarding evolution and ID.
There are those who have said that the curriculum does not leave room for side issues like creationism and religiously motivated challenges to science. I disagree. As valuable and instructive as it is to learn all about photosynthesis and mitosis/meiosis and genetics and so on, most high school students are going to go into fields other than biology. They aren’t going to need to be able to write out an accurate diagram of the Krebs cycle.
But they are going to vote for school board candidates.
The high school biology curriculum needs to take the time (even if it has to make the time) to confront ID/creationism and to explain exactly why it is not scientific and exactly how students can tell the difference. Students need to be tested on their ability to correctly distinguish between a scientific explanation like evolution and a superstitious attribution like ID/creationism. This is the take-away lesson, the set of principles that students will have a continuing need for. This is the scientific technique that everyone can and should apply to their everyday lives.
People today do not understand how to tell who to listen to or who is really backing up their conclusion with scientific evidence instead of just propaganda and appeals to popular bias. We need a public that can tell the difference between science and superstition, and between science and popular opinion. Otherwise we’re going to do very badly on global warming, alternative energy, stem cell research, and a number of other critical areas. The ID controversy is a hot-button topic, an attention getter, a natural focus that will draw students’ interest and allow their teachers to give them hands-on experience dealing scientifically with real-world science problems.
So add me to the list of those calling on public schools to teach the controversy—not the manufactured “controversy” tailored to sow doubt and dissension against science, but the real controversy between those who would defend the scientific method and those who would subvert it for sectarian purposes. Let truly science-minded educators stand up for the academic freedom to teach the truth about ID, and to expose its shortcomings and superstitions. And in the process, let’s teach kids the vital and enlightening skill of distinguishing between genuine science and its parasitic competitors.
They say they want kids to hear the facts about the controversy? They’re asking for it then. Let’s let ‘em have it.